Speech Thomas


About Speech Thomas - 2x Grammy Award Winning founder & lead singer of  ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

Speech was born Todd Thomas in Milwaukee,  Wisconsin. The youngest of parents Robert & Patricia  Thomas. He grew up on two sides of life: the ghetto of  Milwaukee (one of the nation’s roughest cities for African  Americans) and (Wauwatosa) Milwaukee’s suburbia.  Speech learned how to draw from the pains and beauty of both. He would absorb the plights of his people and the retreat of a middle-class black boy in a primarily white neighborhood. He lost his grandmother to a heart attack and his older brother, Terrence Thomas to an Asthma attack within the same week, and through spirituality, learned to recalibrate his inner anger through dynamic music. To celebrate the lives of those he lost, he coined his sound “life music”. Speech wrote the hit song Tennessee as a  dedication to his grandmother and brother. In the early nineties, Speech and his mother started the Terrence  Thomas Scholarship and to date, the scholarship has raised over a million dollars helping young black students further their educations.

 Speech started and produced the hip-hop group,  Arrested Development. Based in Georgia, from humble and rural beginnings; they became a pioneering force in the music world. Arrested Development received two  Grammy Awards (Best new artists & Best rap single  1993) for the album, 3 years, 5 months, and 2 days in the  life of…” Their second album “Zingalamaduni” was met with critical acclaim and was also nominated for a GRAMMY award.

 In 1995, the group disbanded and Speech signed a solo record deal with EMI. His first single “Like Marvin Gaye  Said” shot to #1 on the Japanese Tokio 100 charts for 7  consecutive weeks. Speech has released 5 solo albums since, all of which have spawned Top 10 hit singles in Japan. His album “1998 Hoopla” and Spiritual  People” (2000) were certified gold. “Spiritual People” was awarded the Best black music album of the year 2000  by the acclaimed ADLIB magazine. Speech supported each album with sold-out tours.

Speech has also toured as a solo performer with the United  States Vice President Al Gore, First Lady Hillary ClintonHerbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Youssou N’dour, James  Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Jason Mraz, Hootie &  the Blowfish, and The Roots.

In 2020 Speech partnered with Resonant Pictures and Pipeline Entertainment to release the full-length documentary “16 Bars” where Speech goes into a maximum security jail to write music with inmates. This stirring documentary has won numerous film festival awards and is now available through Lightyear Entertainment on streaming platforms worldwide

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What Speech Thomas talks about:

BRAVE LEADERSHIP: Accomplish the Seemingly Impossible Under Any Circumstance

Brave Leadership is a character trait that every individual can sharpen no matter their background or career path. That is the ultimate message in this keynote by Speech Thomas. Speech knows what it means to be a BRAVE Leader who inspires and accomplishes the extraordinary. Speech is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and leader of the 2x Grammy Award winning hip-hop collective, Arrested Development, but he didn’t always have those accolades behind him. Growing up in Milwaukie, one of the most statistically difficult places for black youth, Speech began “going against the grain,” allowing his challenges to fuel his positive impact. Pushing against all trends at the time, his vulnerable and uplifting song “Tennessee” became Arrested Development’s first hit single as well as BEST RAP SONG winner at the Grammys and was named one of the “500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Speech has experience running multiple businesses and creative projects, while achieving multi-decade success in one of the most notoriously difficult businesses — the music business. Using a blend of storytelling, music and actionable strategies, Speech creates an experience to elevate every member in the audience to their personal next level of Brave Leadership.


·  The 5 qualities of BRAVE Leadership for meaningful and measurable results

·  How to create, innovate, and enjoy groundbreaking success as a leader by being B.R.A.V.E. (Bold, Resilient, Adaptable, Vulnerable, Encouraging)

*Note – this topic can be tailored for Diversity & Inclusion upon request

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 Recent Publications

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